The first World Cup thrust rugby onto a truly global stage and provided New Zealand with some of its most famous sporting imagery.
From the quaint opening ceremony at Eden Park to All Blacks skipper David Kirk hoisting the Webb Ellis Cup at the same ground four weeks later - it remains an event to cherish.
But only those rose tinted glasses could say the tournament was played out in an age of innocence for the sport.
Tension over sporting links with South Africa cast an ominous shadow over New Zealand, which had endured a rugby decade to forget until that point.
Some mediocre All Blacks results were sandwiched between the divisive 1981 Springboks visit and the 1986 rebel Cavaliers tour of South Africa.
Co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, the RWC concept was not born out of any altruistic ideal.
Instead it was the latest manoeuvre in a power struggle between amateur ideals and the tentacles of professionalism creeping into rugby.
Despite opposition from some quarters, it was agreed a competition to determine the pecking order in world rugby should be played.
There is no doubt the four-week tournament did exactly that.
No team has dominated a Rugby World Cup in the manner the All Blacks did, winning all six games in emphatic style, including 29-9 defeat of France in the June 20 final.
That was their closest result as the Brian Lochore-coached team racked up 298 points. Metronomic first five-eighth Grant Fox kicked 126 of them, which remains a tournament record.
The men in black also scored 43 tries and conceded just four, finding a perfect blend of forward power and mobility which freed up a host of exciting backs.
None captured the imagination like John Kirwan, the flying blond winger whose try in the tournament-opening game - when he seemingly beat the entire Italy team from a kickoff during their 70-6 win - still stirs the blood.
Other great All Blacks shone such as Fox, Wayne Shelford, Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Jones, the dynamic flanker who changed the face of forward play.
With squad skipper Andy Dalton injured at training before the tournament kicked off, the clean cut Kirk was thrown into the captaincy. Few will forget the scene high in the Eden Park stand as Kirk invited a reluctant Dalton forward when the trophy was presented.
The final was a match too far for Pierre Berbezier's French side, who had toppled Australia 30-24 the week before at Concord Oval, a suburban Sydney ground.
Undoubtedly the match of the tournament, iconic fullback Serge Blanco scored a classic try late in the corner to eliminate a Wallabies side who most regarded as the pre-tournament favorites.
The other semifinal had no such tension as New Zealand crushed Wales 49-6 in Brisbane. That match was notable for Welsh lock Huw Richards becoming the first player sent off at a World Cup, in an incident which also saw him flattened by a punch from All Blacks enforcer Shelford.
New Zealand accounted for Scotland 30-3 in their quarterfinal at Christchurch to follow thumping pool defeats of Argentina and Fiji.
The Fijians - whose place at the tournament had been in doubt because of a military coup - were the only team without IRB status to reach the quarters, where they were knocked out by France. The other quarters saw Australia down Ireland 33-15 and Wales drub England 16-3.
South Africa missed the tournament due to its apartheid policies while Western Samoa was a controversial omission from the 16-strong invitation list.
Most of the 32 games were one-sided but it didn't stop healthy crowd support, with just over 600,000 people attending matches.
Those numbers have escalated at the five subsequent tournaments, both at venues and - particularly - on television.
But one constant has remained since 1987 - the All Blacks have failed to win a tournament.
It's a record their impatient fans will desperately hope ends when the Rugby World Cup returns to their home soil this year.